Hook up apps have become a pretty common part of gay life. Whilst these apps provide a great way to meet guys for friends, fucks and everything in between, it seems this fast paced way of sorting through a mountain of hot men can have a tendency to make us forget that on the other end of the chat is a real person with real feelings.

Many of these apps also allow guys to say what their HIV status is. Now this is both a good and a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.

  • Good, because guys can make informed decisions about the sex they want to have or any risks they may take.
  • Bad, because this removes the need for guys to actually speak about HIV, staying silent and not discussing HIV can feed ignorance and misconceptions about risks.
  • People may not be honest or may not know their HIV status, but will still list themselves as negative. Research shows that 14% of gay and bi sexual men living with HIV are unaware of their infection and that HIV is more likely to be transmitted by someone that does not know their status.

 #1 Choose your words wisely

Think about your language and what you are actually saying. A pretty safe way of ensuring that you don’t turn into a complete dick is to always ask yourself the question: “Would I say that to their face?”
Saying things like ‘No Asians’, ‘No Fems’, ‘No Fats’, ‘No Blacks’……… is not cool. You’re entitled to your personal preferences. You’re not entitled to be an asshole and you’re not entitled to hurt people’s feelings whilst you hide behind your screen.


Another damaging piece of lingo is using words like ‘clean’ when speaking about HIV. Think about what that word actually means, what’s the opposite of ‘clean’?
Using words like ‘clean’ to identify yourself as HIV negative implies the opposite for people who are HIV positive. This creates stigma and is very damaging, not only to people who may be HIV positive but to the community as a whole.

 

 #2 Get Smart

  • Fucking a guy with HIV does not mean you are going to get HIV. HIV treatment has improved so much that guys who know their status and who are on treatment can have an undetectable viral load (this is the amount of virus in the blood) making it near impossible to pass on the virus through sex.
  • 14% of gay and bi sexual men living with HIV in the UK are unaware of their status.
  • A person is most infectious in the first two weeks of contracting the HIV virus. Evidence shows that HIV is mostly spread by people that do not know that they have it.

Combined these statistics mean that you are safer having unprotected sex with someone who knows they are HIV positive, taking their medications correctly and has an undetectable viral load than what you are with someone who is unaware of their HIV status or someone who assumes that they are negative but has not tested recently. THE IMPORTANT THING IS KNOWING YOUR STATUS, WHETHER THAT BE POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE. If you are positive, you can manage your viral load with medications to ensure that HIV can not be transmitted to others.

#3 Get tested and know your status

The more sexual partners you have the more you should test.

HIV has a window period where it does not show up in your body, this mean a negative result today means that you gives you your HIV status as it was 6 – 12 weeks ago (depending on the type of HIV test you took). This could mean a person who was taking HIV risks, despite testing regularly may still not have the most up to date information about their own status. This combined with the fact that people are most infectious in their first two weeks of contracting the virus creates a high risk scenario for onward transmission.

With apps now allowing people to state their HIV status on their profile it creates an assumption that this information is current and accurate. The only profiles that you could really be sure are correct are the ones that state they are HIV positive but this comes with no information about how that individual looks after their health, manages their medications or any of the other STIs that could be present.

#4 Condoms make us equal

Condoms level the playing field. Condoms and lube reduce the risks of HIV transmission to almost 0% and greatly reduce the chances of catching many of the other STIs too. Condoms make knowing someones HIV status less important because you are protecting yourself in the best way possible.

PEP is there as a backup for when condoms fail, break or are forgotten.

PrEP is another option for protection. Unlike condoms, PrEP will not protect you from increased risks of other STIs.

Then there is TasP, which is a proven method of HIV prevention but puts 100% of the responsibility with in the hands of the HIV positive partner.

Whilst all of these methods provide a good selection of options for stopping HIV transmission, condoms remain the most effective both in terms of success and cost.

 #4 Play Safely & Play Smart

Online hook ups are not with out their dangers.  Guys have landed themselves in the unfortunate position of getting unexpectedly mugged or attacked when going to meet up.  It is wise to tell a friend, so someone knows where you are going and when they should expect you back.

Drugs and Chemsex are rife online and can come with significant risks, especially when it comes to losing control.  If you are taking part in a chemsex session, take a look at the section on this & get some tips to help you to stay in the driving seat.

Set boundaries for yourself and respect the boundaries of others. It's often a good idea to pre-decide what your limits and expectations are, be clear about these before meeting up.  If you get into a situation and change your mind about what you want, that's ok, don't ever feel obligated to go through with something that you don't want to.  Respect is a two way street, be sure to treat others in the same way.

When arranging sex online be in charge of your own health and be mindful of others both in terms of their health and their feelings. Apps and online are great, don’t ruin them by being an online dick.

 

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